Positively Pitties

March 7, 2012  

Dane County Humane Society features an extensive pit bull education program to help create human and dog ambassadors

By Jennifer Pratt

Here at Dane County Humane Society there is no lack of love for one of the most misunderstood types of dogs. Having a pit bull terrier is a lot of responsibility because of their poor reputation with the media. Great diligence is needed to properly train your pit bull so that your dog will be an ambassador. Understanding pit bull type dogs starts with learning about the breeds’ beginnings right up to the roles they play in society today. We want to give you the knowledge and know-how to communicate with your dog in order to show your community what great additions these canine citizens are.

Robust, quick and brimming with vigor, pit bulls are intelligent clowns who want to please and are ever hopeful of being lap dogs. They tend to view the world as a giant playhouse and are often known as perennial puppies – enjoying games well into their old age. These good natured, loyal and affectionate dogs are obedient and eager to please, which makes them easy to train. Some American Pit Bull Terriers have been known for aggression towards other dogs, but this can largely be avoided with proper training and socialization techniques for both you and your dog.

We strive to make you and your companion such glowing ambassadors that you will inspire others to take a second look at pit bull type dogs As any loving guardian knows, “To know a pittie is to love a pittie.” Dane County Humane Society is here to help you spread the joy of having such a loving companion.

Outline of our program:
Our education program includes six sessions, an hour and a quarter each, that are held on Mondays in our training room. We start each session with a short informative presentation on the pit bulls and then follow with manners training for you and your companion.

Examples of topics covered are history of the breed, myths vs. facts, toys, resource lists, breed-discriminatory legislation, common behavior problems, and positive reinforcement training methods to motivate you and your dog for success. Open discussion and questions are encouraged at the end of each session.

Part two focuses on expanding the obedience commands learned in part one.

In order to facilitate the best matches of pit bulls with potential adopters, we give out all of the information and handouts we have available about pit bulls, including but not limited to our “Is a Pit Bull Terrier Right for You?” pamphlet, a list of websites featuring information about the pit bulls, a list of homeowners insurance companies that accept pit bull terriers and encouragement to enroll in our Positively Pitties class at the time of their adoption.

In addition, before a potential adopter can meet with one of our resident pit bulls, we verify their housing: Do they own their own home or rent from a landlord that has confirmed with us that they allow the breed? This has significantly cut down on returns because of housing restrictions, one of the major reasons that this breed is surrendered to us. The majority of these dogs come to us as strays between the ages of 6 months to 1.5 years.

The stray statistic is an issue that we are trying to address through a newly formed committee of staff and volunteers currently referred to as the Pittie Committee. As part of this pilot committee’s program, we are holding a Community Dog Day, offering free dog supplies and vaccinations in a district where we find the most stray pitbulls.

Our agenda for the committee:

• To address and find solutions for the overpopulation of American Pit Bull Terriers admitted into DCHS each year by developing programs that will positively impact the welfare of them within our community.
• To focus on breed-specific challenges and solutions in four areas: outreach and public awareness, spay and neuter, foster and adoption, and behavior and training.
• To develop programs in each of these areas as they pertain to the pit bull population, their guardians and anyone who wants to help DCHS enhance the understanding, awareness and adoptability of pit bulls.

Pittie matching program:
This is set up for those who come in looking at pit bulls or who currently have a pit bull and are looking for another to add to the family. If they are responsible individuals, new to pit bulls or not, we put them on a list and work with them to find the perfect match. This takes extra time for new potential guardians and they have to be willing. It also takes staff time. We always try to make the perfect match. Potential adopters are called when a dog becomes available and we think the dog would be a good fit for them. Staff does this on a volunteer basis because we do not collect a service fee.

Positively Pitties newsletter:
Monthly we go through and add everyone who has adopted a pit bull terrier from us to our monthly newsletter. In it we promote our classes, post pictures of recent graduates, share positive articles – many from StubbyDog.org – and share ambassador stories of pit bulls in our community.

Visiting schools:
I work with our shelter educator to take my very social face licker, Bozley, to area schools and to our education camp here at the shelter. Not all schools will allow us to visit because of his breed, but those who do have been absolutely wonderful!

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